In less than a week, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, and Big E will battle for the WWE Championship at the inaugural Day 1 pay-per-view (or, more accurately, WWE hopes they will and are willing to put its head back in the sand to make it happen, regardless of what’s best for public health and safety). The multi-man format has allowed the company to intersect multiple plot threads that will culminate at the New Year’s Day show.
Thus far, the build to this match has primarily focused on Owens’ descent back into his old debaucherous ways, Owens’ clashes/eventual team-up with Rollins (which surely won’s lead to them splitting up), and Lashley’s possible slow-burn babyface turn.
Oh, and Big E — the WWE Champion — is also there, having matches and doing Big E things.
In dedicating so much of the match’s build to Big E’s opponents, WWE has forgotten to sell fans on what this match means to Big E (besides the obvious).
To be fair, E has remained his entertaining self whenever he’s on-screen, but those appearances have mostly consisted of responding to whatever Owens, Rollins, and Lashley are doing. Even his show-opening interaction with Lashley from the Dec. 20 Raw served to test the waters for a babyface Lashley run as opposed to getting across what a win in the Fatal 4 Way would mean for his reign outside of it simply continuing another day.
Basically, the champ has been booked like Batman in a Tim Burton Batman movie: he’s integral to the main story, but the emphasis is on everything and everyone around him.
Aside from the exchange from Lashley, all fans have heard from E regarding this match is the usual, generic “I know the odds are against me, but I’m gonna retain my title”, and while many fans (including yours truly) want to see him retain anyway, the cookie-cutter mission statement isn’t enough of a hook for the less-ardent viewers (who operate in good faith) to invest in his quest to keep the WWE Title.
Yes, the importance of retaining the championship and turning back three former world champions to do so is a concept that most fans can grasp without being explicitly told by the company, but even producing one segment where E passionately talks about how hard he worked to win the title while putting over the immense threat to everything he labored for would be enough to get across how important this match is for him and the other three men.
After all, this is a match for the WWE Championship, and as such, the champion should be as much of a focal point as the talented and compelling challengers who are chasing him.